Entrepreneurs, Opinions Posted Oct 17, 2016 by chenpr
Last week I recalled advice given to me by an early mentor who told me, “In this business talent is nice, but reliability is what matters.”
I pass by an example of “reliability is what matters” nearly every day on my way home that seemed worth sharing.
Gary sells the Spare Change News on the corner of Congress and Hanover Streets in Boston. Spare Change is a paper founded, produced and sold by Boston’s homeless community and the contents are largely devoted to news and social issues relevant to that constituency. The paper comes out every two weeks and costs $2. Vendors buy a supply of papers for a certain price and keep the difference on each issue they sell.
On evenings when I’m not working too late, I pass Gary on my walk to North Station. It was about a year ago when I took note that, except in the most inclement of conditions, Gary would be on his corner greeting pedestrians and barking out his pitch. Gary proved to be a reliable, genial presence on his corner and one day I bought a paper from him to read on my way home. Gary’s smile and optimistic personality demonstrated his appreciation more than his earnest “thank you sir.” When the next edition came out, I bought it and thereafter, whenever I passed Gary on the days between he’d recognize me and we’d exchange pleasantries.
When it appeared Gary wasn’t too busy, I’d stop and talk about things. Any time you linger for very long with Gary it’s clear he’s well-liked by many people who are regulars along that route. He is constantly selling papers, shaking hands and greeting others.
Last week I stopped to talk and Gary conveyed to me that earlier in the day one of his regular customers had done something that touched him. His morning hadn’t started out well but an act of kindness from this particular man lifted his spirits and he was excited to share the experience. During our conversation he wondered why someone would be so kind and my thoughts immediately went to that advice.
“Gary, you’re an important part of people’s day,” I offered, suggesting that for the people who have gotten to know him, he’s a reliably positive presence. There have been many times, I told him, that his greeting has given me a boost and he shouldn’t be surprised when others return the favor.
He stopped to think about that for a moment and said, “Maybe you’re right.”
If you live or work in Boston and are a regular on public transportation, chances are you pass a Spare Change News vendor along the way. Do yourself a favor and take note of the person hawking the paper. If you recognize him as a regular, reliable presence along your route, grab a couple bucks out of your wallet and buy a copy the next time you see him.